Study Forecasts Potential Shift of 131 Mln to Government-Run Health Care | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Study Forecasts Potential Shift of 131 Mln to Government-Run Health Care
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One of the major fights in the upcoming health care push will be over whether the legislation should allow Americans the option of enrolling in a newly created government-run plan. President Obama said that the so-called public option was a way to “keep the private sector honest” and Howard Dean, among others within the movement, has argued that this should be the hill to die on for progressives. “If Barack Obama’s healthcare plan gets changed to exclude a public option like Medicare, then it is not healthcare reform,” he declared in launching a new health care grassroots effort.

But an analysis released today by the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, confirms what conservatives have argued all along – that the creation of a public option would shift more and more people from private health care to government health care, thus creating a single-payer, or socialized health care system, over a period of time.

The group considers several variations of a public option. In one case, it would be open to everybody, including large businesses, and in another case it would be restricted to individuals and small firms. Either way, the results are alarming:

If as the President proposed, eligibility is limited to only small employers, individuals and the self-employed, public plan enrollment would reach 42.9 million people. The number of people with private coverage would fall by 32.0 million people….

If the public plan is opened to all employers as proposed by Senators Clinton and Edwards, at Medicare payment levels we estimate that about 131.2 million people would enroll in the public plan. The number of people with private health insurance would decline by 119.1 million people. This would be a two-thirds reduction in the number of people with private coverage (currently 170 million people).

If private reimbursement rates are paid to doctors and hospitals rather than lower Medicare reimbursements, the shift to the public plan would not be as dramatic.

However, if government uses its bargaining power to restrict payments to doctors and hospitals as it does under Medicare, Lewin estimates that doctors’ pay will shrink by $33.1 billion in 2010 and hospitals’ earnings will drop by $36 billion.

As Heritage notes, as it is, more and more doctors are opting out of Medicare because of the low reimbursement rates. What will happen if 131.2 million more people start paying at the same reduced rate?

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